It was no regular Saturday the eleventh in Manhattan inside the house that Les built, a two-night takeover of thrills and chills. An evening of unexpected musical surprises presented by John 5.
My Saturday started like any other, anytime there is a post-work gig. When it seemed time was short, I came in clutch at work, clocked out, and huffed it via the shortest train-to-train route. It may have theoretically been a half-hour L train to 3 train trek was swifter, and by the grace of Apollo, I arrived at 50th street with time to spare before the doors opened. The doors opened at seven-thirty. One by one, a roomful of regular attendees and v.i.p’s walked downstairs and into the infamous and intimate basement jazz club, having a one-hour break to have some drinks before getting locked in the insane world of John 5 one more time for an hour and change.
At eight-thirty, it was time. John 5!
John is like Dr. Frederick Frankenstein on stage. Not only does John 5 have the energy of a young Ace Frehley, but John can also keep the audience on the edge of their seats from start to finish. John 5 is a maniac that never played the same note twice. The string(s) between his trusty Fender Tele and John himself is ironbound, and on that particular Saturday, it was unbreakable. John was shredding every note like a mad scientist. John took the audience on a guitar-driven ride going up and down and round and round. They did not miss a moment all night as bassist Ian Ross laid back and kept the shred mayhem controlled like a beast.
John’s armory of guitars is another experience altogether. Like John, his guitars and even a singular banjo had their moments. Unlike most instrumental performers, John loves to switch up his gear. John seamlessly plays guitar while staying in place, even kicking off his set, paying homage to Jimmy Page à la strumming the clear body guitar filled with green liquid with a cello bow before going into Season of the Witch.
John 5 played for a good hour filled with awesome tunes from most of his discography. A few within the song moments were present. One of them was John sitting on the lap of an audience member laying down some tasty jams at what was presumably the paid V.I.P. table of the Iridium.
Other highlights included a costumed space cadet doing the robot during I Am John 5. An homage to Jimmy Hendrix with John using his teeth to play the Star-Spangled Banner and a medley of songs that received the loudest reaction of the night with John showcasing the significance of Angus Young (Thunderstruck), Billy Gibbons (La Grange), the late, great Edward Van Halen (Hot for Teacher / Runnin’ with the Devil), Jay Noel Yuenger (Thunder Kiss ’65), and many more. There was even a special on-stage appearance from Jason Michael Leatherface throwing candy out to the audience.
As the night came to a close, I finally acquired a personally long-awaited John 5 tour shirt and strolled down to 42nd street for a post-gig to-go meal at Five Guys. At around 11:00 P.M, I waited for the N train to Canal street. Mere words cannot describe a John 5 experience, and I’m not even sure if this concert report can fully encapsulate a John 5 show, but one thought still sticks with me.
“I got to try karaoke again.”
While that was not my initial thought, John 5 defiantly puts a LOT of work into his performances, and it shows. Eternal hails to the mad axeman. I am sure the way that John perceives it. If you intend on making your guitar be a part of the show, why not do it with some style?